red lipstain

(Note: Scroll down to the bottom of this post for new cake shots from readers! They continue to be amazing)

I’ve been depressed for the last two days. The kind of depressed where Bear is like, “What’s wrong?” and I’m like “Nothing.” Because everything feels wrong, even the tiniest, most stupidly meaningless things, and it would be impossible to describe and I don’t understand anything and “nothing” is the only word I can even remember how to say.

“But seriously, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” My mind is a black hole. It’s amazing, really, that this word has surfaced from the depths. Good job, mind. Someone should give me a prize. Someone should put me back in front of the TV so I can watch yet another episode of Terra Nova and continue to wonder vaguely why everyone in the future is white. Except for the evil tribal leader who lives out in the jungle. She’s black.

I was going out last night. I had a thing at 7:00. So I decided to get serious. To stare the black hole in its black hole face. I went out and bought some red lipstain. Yeah. I did.

So now you know that I didn’t have any before. I had red lipstick, but that always ends up on my teeth.

It cost nine dollars. Isn’t that a lot? I always think that makeup is way more expensive than it should be.

I  felt like I looked stupid buying it. I was depressed. I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt that had something to do with football that I’d stolen from my dad. My dad is a very broad, muscular man. I am not. I felt like the woman behind the counter was judging me. She might have been thinking, “Seriously, honey? Good luck with  that…”

The lipstain was impossible to open. I wrestled with it. I swore. I beat it against the counter. I informed the air around me that the world was messed up. A really messed up place in which nothing ever worked out the way it should. I took the lipstain to the kitchen and introduced it to a knife. I worked in silence for a while, concentrating hard, running late. And then I cut the wrong end of it and this wet, red plug fell out and bounced, splattering lipstain on the floor. Am I the only woman who can’t ever open cosmetics? I can’t do it. I am physically incapable of it. I have some kind of disorder. I stuck the plug back in. I hacked at the other end with my knife. I hated everything.

I have a long history with red lipstuff. Mostly lipstick. I have a long history of wishing it looked good on me. Of feeling like I don’t deserve it. Of not wearing it for years and then, one day, just slapping some on and grabbing life by the balls. Or, rather, carefully, carefully applying some, blotting it, wondering why my lips are so bad at lipstick, applying another layer, getting some on my sleeve when I automatically touch my face with said sleeve, going out the door, getting some on my scarf, trying to surreptitiously check and see if it’s on my teeth in the subway by angling my little mirror up from inside my purse, and then worrying about it  for the entire day.

Unlike Bear, and other people, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. At least when it comes to emotions and lipstick. I usually don’t wear any. At all. And then I suddenly want to go red. Bright red. Deep red. The reddest red.

Sometimes I want to do it because I’m confident. Sometimes I want to do it because I’m depressed. Because I want the red to snap me out of it. I want to be bold, instead of dull.

I know, it’s silly.

I put the lipstain on. By now it was also on my boot, the sink (I’d opened the wrong end again, in the bathroom), and one of the cat’s paws (her fault). I looked in the mirror. I looked like I was pretending. Hardcore. Like I was a total fake. Like I didn’t deserve that lipstain at all. Like only sexy, glamorous women with extremely long, elegantly tapering legs and hair that looked the right kind of mussed could wear that color. Like I was trespassing. Like I was just about the lamest person in the world.

But it’d been two days of feeling like my life was the stupidest thing that had ever happened to the universe, and I was done. I was going to wear the lipstain. Also, I didn’t know how to get it off. How do you do that?

I went out. I checked in the subway, in case there was some on my teeth. There wasn’t.

I was unattractive and bold and ridiculous and I was going to get over it.

This morning, I woke up, and I looked great. In boxers and a floral print tank top, with my mouth stained red with unknown chemicals, I looked exactly right.

The darkness had lifted. I ate my oatmeal in peace. I felt for a moment that maybe, maybe I’d amount to something. My mind had climbed up out of the black hole, and it occurred to me that a lot of things will happen that I can’t predict, and many of them will be good.

But here’s a lesson: If you think you look really bad in red lipstain, then maybe just give yourself a day or two. Sometimes it’s just your mind, refusing to believe.

(the photos in this post are a small sampling of the many, many shots I have of myself in red lipstick over the years. Putting it on makes me want to take pictures. And then photoshop them.)

*   *   *

Unroast: Today I like the way I look the morning after.

New cake shots for the gallery! Here they are! And guys, let me know if you want your names on them– right now I’m just keeping it anonymous, but I’m happy to label them if you prefer. And everyone– send me more! Always!

This one is desserty enough that I think it counts:

And this shot is from a male reader (lots of guys secretly read ETDC– fancy that). Since I see his shirt in it, I’m including it, too. The rules are a little lax around here:

P.S. ETDC readers are being offered a 40% discount on a book that involves cake! It’s called Tea and Cake London and it’s from Black Dog Publishing.  Here’s the description:  Tea & Cake London is a comprehensive guide to the best places to enjoy tea and cake across the British capital. Charming, knowledgeable and often surprising, this lovely book roots out more than 70 cafes, bakeries and tearooms worth discovering, from iconic establishments to modern classics and undiscovered gems. Whether you are looking for a traditional afternoon tea, a casual cafe in which to gossip over a brew, a bakery selling elite buttery treats, vegan delights or an oddball tearoom with a twist, Tea & Cake London has the answer.

So if you live in London or are going there, there you go! To order a copy, email Jess at with your delivery address and quote ‘Eat the Damn Cake offer’ as the subject heading. The book will then be sent with an invoice.



Kate on November 9th 2011 in beauty, being sad

32 Responses to “red lipstain”

  1. ladykatya responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    AH! The depression monster has you too?

    You’re the 3rd strong, intelligent, beautiful woman who’s gotten bitten by the monster. Myself, my good friend (who is *NEVER* depressed!) and you all got the depression monster!!!

    Glad the red lipstain helped snap you out of it. I might go get some on lunch and try it myself!!

    – lk

  2. LIT responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I want to wear red lipstick- but I also feel like an imposter when I buy it. Last time I wore some- my father-in-law was taking us to dinner. He took one look at me and said, “Oh! You’re trying something new…. I don’t like it!” Don’t think I’ll ever wear it again! haha.

    Glad your fog has lifted!!!

  3. Donna responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I own 2 really expensive red lipsticks . I thought if I paid a lot for them I would use them. Nope it didnt work . Red to me is too bold ,to daring it says I know who I am and I love me…I’m not there yet !!

  4. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    oy vey (i’m not jewish, but i can say that) :) …must be something in the atmosphere, i just came out of a fog yesterday, so i totally know what that feeling is like…as for red lipstick, some skin tones are not enhanced by red lipstick, like mine, i wear coppery, bronze colors and feel the same “wow” because it suits me. and it’s just really hard to find the right shade of red. all or nothing…yep.

  5. Erin responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I have always felt unable to wear lipstick. Like women who can’t wear high heels because of a back problem. I have a face problem, and it impairs my ability to wear anything but colored lipgloss. I’ve never figured out how women wear lipstick without it getting gross and drawing attention how chapped your lips are. Also, although I think my lips are a nice shape, when I fill in that shape with lipstick it looks like I’ve drawn my mouth on all wrong.

    Bravo for pulling it off, and I’m glad that it helped you get out of your slump :)

  6. San D responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I loved your “I love Lucy” description of trying to open up the lipstick.

  7. Lynn responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I’ve been in a funk all week too, and it’s slowly lifting today, and this post definitely helped :)

  8. Kate responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Ha! So many people in a funk at once! Is it the weather?

  9. Kayla Lane responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    It’s so strange when you talk about how you’re unattractive. After a while, I wonder if you’re fishing for compliments (I know you aren’t — I believe you actually *feel* that way.) … buuut I look at those pictures of you, and from what I know of you from your writing, I just think: That girl is crazy if she doesn’t know how hot she is!

    Not trying to just flatter you. I’m being completely serious. But perhaps that’s why I love your blog so much. I think we all can relate to feeling (and even being convinced we appear) unattractive, and nothing other people say or see can convince us otherwise.

    Love the blog. Hope this comment wasn’t too weird or misinterpreted. You rock.

  10. Kate responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    @Kayla Lane
    lol! Not fishing, just really feeling that way, as you guessed. Which is one of the reasons I’m never sure if I should put pictures up or not. Because I can’t bring myself to put up terrible pictures of myself, so I put up pretty good ones, and then I think it makes me sound silly, since I look fine in the pictures. But you are exactly on target– the real point, and the reason I do put pictures up, is that it doesn’t matter how I look in the photos or in the mirror, or to other people. There’s a different story in my head. And I think it’s that way for everyone.

    So basically I’m repeating you. But I wanted to clarify the part about fishing– because that’d be embarrassing. And because I actually feel a little awkward when people just compliment me about my looks here (even though of course I also appreciate it). That’s not the goal.

  11. Frugalwed responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    Not everyone suits straight-up red. I sure as hell don’t. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    This is a cool kit of 12 different takes on red so you can find the one that actually works for you. It’s $20 for 12 little samples. Not bad.

  12. T.K responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 5:05 pm #


    I once read a quote by Scarlett Johanson ssaying that when she feel depressed she puts on red lipstick and there is something so inherently bold and sexy about wearing red that it makes her feel better. For me personally, red lipstick is just about the only make-up I wear. I don’t like the idea of make up as a tool for hiding your “flaws” or “enhancing” your features. But red lipstick isn’t that kind of make-up. To me it speaks as more of an extension of the personality, as a fun accessory rather than a programmed attempt to manipulate your face into something prettier ( programmed by the million dollar beauty industry). Perhaps it is hypocritical at the core, but red lipstick is just such a romantic notion (I love the “vintage” look) to me that it is free from my usual critical gaze. But if you think of lipstick like that – a splash of style, a little doze of fun to brighten up a gloomy day, rather than a vessel for insecurities and frustration; if you can actually separate the lipstick from its connection to the “beauty myth”, it becomes something entirely different. Use it to play rather than to fix :)

  13. Sooz responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    @T.K AWESOME response!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! totally agree. :)

  14. Deanna responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    I wear lipstick all the time. I look really bad without it and when you wear it all the time as I do, your lips feel funny without it. I wish I could go make-up less and I know I can, but I hate the way I look. When I look good I feel better. When I look barefaced and unkempt I feel yucky.

  15. Twyla responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    I was craving red lipstick a few days ago and bought a tube. I’ve been wearing it almost every day! And the same color lip liner underneath does wonders. :)

  16. alex responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    I’m in high school so none of my problems may seem that traumatizing to grown women, but I just have to say that the past two days have been horrible for me too and this post made me feel so much better. I never wear makeup, but I do own lipstain. I think I’ll put it on the next I’m feeling down :) Thank you Kate

  17. Silvia responded on 09 Nov 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    I’ll be showing red lipstain all over Northern Italy today!

  18. Cathrine responded on 10 Nov 2011 at 5:14 am #

    Whenever I get a new haircut, the first thing I do is put on red lipstick to see if it ‘works’. It’s my red lipstick test.

    Red lipstain also rules.

    PS. I love how each woman has a different relationship to red lipstick…

  19. Cathrine responded on 10 Nov 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Suggested side project: Men with Cake? I have a picture I could contribute.

  20. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Better yet Cathrine…a naked man jumping out of a cake :)

  21. Kate responded on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Send me the pic! I’ll add it to the gallery. Men are welcome, too :-)
    I have a brother who won’t eat cake because he’s on a diet. So a picture of him eating cake would be a huge deal.

    And @Kimmy Sure– LOL! Now that image is in my head…

  22. Rachel W. responded on 10 Nov 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Oh, Kate, I must de-lurk to tell you that this post just about broke my heart. You summed up my entire relationship with red lipstick– shoot, my entire relationship with my body– in that one paragraph about not deserving it.

    Sometimes I find body image blogs or personal style stuff depressing, because it’s like the writers are on another plane of being from me. They never feel neurotic or ugly or indelibly awkward, just positive, positive all the time. I’m sorry that you have had some sad days, but thank you for sharing: it’s really helpful to be reminded that other people feel this way, and that this can be wildly disconnected from how we actually look.

    And it’s midnight, and I’m at home in my pajamas, and I just went and put on some red lipstick. :)

  23. Val responded on 11 Nov 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    I’m Norwegian—Scandinavian. Pale. Sandy hair, blue eyes. Red lipstick has always been too exotic for me—just as you described, someone else’s face. (Play make up. Goofy.) At least you have a bit of exotic flair to you—the arched nose and short hair, the cuteness of youth.

  24. Kate responded on 11 Nov 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    The look you’re describing– pale, blue eyes, sounds like it’d go gorgeously with red lipstick to me!

  25. Tasha responded on 12 Nov 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    I’m wearing red lipstick tonight to a big party. I almost went for pink instead but I’m hoping red lipstick will bring that extra oomph that I need tonight to be me: the amazing somewhat confident woman who is beautiful (even when she doesn’t always believe she is). I want to be bold and take tonight by the balls.

    You can get the lipstain off with cold cream.

  26. jessica responded on 12 Nov 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Ok #1- you look AMAZING with bold red lips!!! And #2- reading this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I too just bought my first ever red lip stain and wore it to a wedding yesterday. I felt like I looked so different from the day to day ordinary Jessica that I thought for a moment that people wouldn’t recognize me, but they did and guess what… it even felt sincere when the said I looked great so here’s to girls in a funk with bold red lips!

  27. Claire Allison responded on 14 Nov 2011 at 4:12 am #

    Thanks for posting this, Kate. I was having a hard time winning the battle with my depression earlier this week and it helped me get off the couch.

  28. Adrienne responded on 22 Nov 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    I have a hard time pushing myself out of my depressed moments. I usually want to wallow for a day or so, but then, even when I’m ready not to be depressed any more, I don’t know how not to be.

    I often end up eating something outrageously decadent and then regretting it. Leading to a whole new problem on top of the depression. But then, for no obvious reason, it ends. I feel better; lighter, freer, easier to deal with and be.

    I wish I could identify that switch. But even if I could, I’m not sure how often I’d use it.

  29. Fallen From Flavour responded on 23 Nov 2011 at 8:25 am #

    It was great to be able to get ‘Tea & Cake London’ at the discounted ETDC readers price – thanks Kate. My copy arrived the other day and I find it to be a charming little book – due to my love of tea and sweet things, a few of the places featured there I already know quite well, but there are many more yet to experience! I will be eating my way around the capital, one cake at a time. Thanks again.

  30. Eat the Damn Cake » what the hell is success, anyway? responded on 23 Mar 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    [...] seasoned matzah instead of a bread basket. I wore all flowing white, with a sliver of a belt, and deep red lipstick. And by the time I got there, I realized that I wasn’t upset. I was thrilled by the warmth of [...]

  31. Penny responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    You ma’am, have fantastic lips. The edges of my lips are too ill defined for red lipstick.

  32. beaujolais responded on 23 Sep 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Seriously, Kate, you have great lips for lipstick/lipstain. Imaging all those poor women (ME!) with thin things that looks strange when defined so brightly.